December 31st, 2003
I’ve avoided talking about hot and breaking news for a while. I did not post about the recent quakes in California and Iran; and I’ve somehow managed not to post anything about Paris Hilton. But Mad Cow Disease is a horse of a different color. Go read Alton Brown – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Cow where he says:
No…that’s not nature. Cattle are not cannibals. They are turf munchers…cud chewers, and they are meant to feast on the salad bar that is open pastureland. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or “mad cow disease” results when the people who raise cattle feed them chow that includes the brains of other cattle that were infected. Why would anyone want to feed cattle to cattle? Economics of course…it’s a cheap way to bulk up feed. And why would someone want to do that? To get the price of beef down. Why? Because we like it that way.
That’s right, Mad Cow disease isn’t the beef industry’s fault, it’s not the USDA’s fault, and it’s surely not the cattle’s fault. It’s our fault.
That’s right…you and I are to blame for the fact that hundreds if not thousands of animals will have to be destroyed because of the threat of BSE. We are to blame because our culture has come to value two qualities above all else: “cheap”, and “more”. How else can you explain the cancerous creep of Wal-Marts across our landscape, or the ever swelling American waistline.
And then read this, from the author of a book that got no media coverage in the USA. Read AlterNet’s story: Mad Cow USA: The Nightmare Begins. Which is surely scary, but necessarily so. Government is in the pocket of the beef interests, this needs to be fixed, and this is important. An excerpt:
Since the announcement of United States mad cow disease our phones have rung off the hook with interview requests. The New York Times noted that “The 1997 book ‘Mad Cow USA’, by Sheldon Rampton and John C. Stauber, made the case that the disease could enter the United States from Europe in contaminated feed.” Articles in the New York Times also cited other warnings from Consumer Union’s Michael Hansen, and Dr. Stanley Prusiner, the Nobel Prize-winning researcher who this week called the current United States practice of weaning calves on cattle blood protein “stupid.” All of this would be very vindicating, except for one problem: the millions of dollars that the government and industry are spending on PR to pull the wool over the public’s eyes might just succeed in forestalling the necessary steps that now, at this late date, must still be taken to adequately deal with this crisis.
The good news is that those steps are rather simple and understandable. We should ship Ann Veneman and her smartest advisors to Britain where they can copy the successful feed and testing regulations that have solved the mad cow problem in Europe. Veneman and her advisors should institute a complete and total ban on feeding any slaughterhouse waste to livestock. You may think this is already the case because that’s what industry and government said they did back in the summer of 1997. But beside the cattle blood being legally fed back to cattle, billions of pounds of rendered fat, blood meal, meat and bone meal from pigs and poultry are rendered and fed to cattle, and cattle are rendered and fed to other food species, a perfect environment for spreading and amplifying mad cow disease and even for creating new strains of the disease.
The feed rules that the United States must adopt can be summarized this way: you might not be a vegetarian, but the animals you eat must be. The United States must also institute an immediate testing regime that will test millions of cattle, not the 20,000 tested out of 35 million slaughtered in the past year in the United States. Japan now tests all cattle before consumption, and disease experts like Dr. Prusiner recommend this goal for the United States. And of course, no sick “downer” cows, barely able to move, should be fed to any humans. These are the type of animals most likely to be infected with mad cow and other ailments – although mad cows can also seem completely healthy at the time of slaughter, which is why testing all animals must be the goal.
So. People, get active. Learn about this. And tell the truth about it. Animals you eat must be vegetarian. It’s that simple. The USA can solve this problem.